Children learn through play. As an occupational therapist who works with children and youth, I use games and toys almost every day to help develop important cognitive, visual perceptual, motor, sensory, social, play and leisure skills. While many different types of activities can be used in therapy, this blog focuses on off-the-shelf games and toys that are accessible to most. Whether you are a therapist, parent, teacher, or a game lover like me, I hope you discover something useful while you are here. Learn a different way to play a game you already own or discover a new game for your next family game night. Either way, just go play. It's good for you!

The OT Magazine named The Playful Otter one of the Top 5 Pediatric OT Blogs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Imagination Magnets - Expansion Pack

Work on manual dexterity, in-hand manipulation, palmar arch strength/stability, coordinated use of both hands, motor planning, body awareness, tactile perception, visual discrimination, visual closure, visual form constancy, spatial relations, figure ground, eye-hand coordination, attention, recognition of shapes and shape names, play and leisure exploration and participation

In the box: 37 magnet backed wooden blocks, 20 patterns on 10 cards (back-to-back)
Ages 3+, 1+ players

This set is an expansion pack for the Imaginets kit that I blogged about earlier. Like the pieces in that set, the pieces in this pack are brightly painted wooden blocks with magnetic backs. At first glance I thought that this pack could stand alone without the original Imaginets set. But as I flipped through the pattern cards I realized otherwise. There are three block colors included with this set - pink, goldish orange, and blue. The first 10 patterns are created with only those three colors and blocks from this expansion set. However, the last 10 patterns include colored blocks that can only be found in the original Imaginets set, including yellow, purple, and green.
Left - Blocks from this expansion pack.  Right - Blocks from this expansion pack plus the original kit.
When putting the two sets together, there will be two shades of blue and an orange, gold, and yellow. Some of the pieces in this set are also smaller than in the original set. Here is a picture comparing the two sets. The pieces on the left come with the original Imaginets set. The pieces on the right are from the Expansion Pack, sold separately.

The original block set starts with simpler designs with fewer pieces. I have found the original set very useful in my practice and it is well received by most. A good tool for working on multiple visual perceptual skills. I often use the magnetic pattern sets with beginners or individuals who have slight hand tremors or other conditions that impact their fine motor precision because magnetic pieces, once laid, are harder to disturb if bumped than non-magnetic pieces.

For more of this type of activity, check out my post on What's in Your Therapy Box? Pattern Blocks Edition.

Try this:

  • Play with the pieces before using the cards and point out the differences in size, shape, color, etc.
  • Put the first piece in place in front of the individual if he cannot look at the picture and figure out where to start. Or say something like "Let's start with the ears".
  • Orient and place a piece if the individual is having trouble with orientation. Then pick it up, hand it to the individual, and invite him to place it.
  • Hand the individual a piece he will need and ask him to turn it in-hand for the correct placement.
  • Use consistent directional and positional language such as above, to the left of, under, flush, etc.
  • Find all pieces for the picture ahead of time. Place only those pieces (or even fewer) next to the board if you want to focus on one specific skill at a time, such as spatial orientation. This may decrease frustration from working on too many things at once.
  • Practice recognizing shapes from different orientations. Ask the individual to search through all the available pieces to find the ones he needs. Make sure that the pieces are in various positions so that some are facing the wrong direction, some are overlapping, some are upside-down, some are on their sides, etc.
  • Correct errors as soon as they are made as continuing to build on incorrect placement may impact the rest of the model.
  • Teach the individual to recognize and correct errors. After the individual places a piece incorrectly, ask "Are you sure?" or say "Try again". If he cannot figure out the error, make the correction while he watches. Then pick up the piece and hand it to him to place.
  • Give fading prompts as the individual learns to identify errors and correct mistakes on his own.
  • Ask the individual to cup his non-dominant hand. If he has trouble doing this, place a small ball in his hand and ask him to curl and lightly squeeze his fingers around the ball. Then remove the ball and ask him to hold his hand in that position. Place several of the pieces he will need in the cupped hand and keep the hand cupped while he places the pieces on the board.
If you are interested in purchasing this item, or for more information, click on the image below.  

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